Background and objectives No previous study has assessed the outcomes of cooled radiofrequency ablation (C-RFA) of the medial branch nerves (MBN) for the treatment of lumbar facet joint pain nor compared its effectiveness with traditional RFA (T-RFA). This study evaluated 6-month outcomes for pain, function, psychometrics, and medication usage in patients who underwent MBN C-RFA versus T-RFA for lumbar Z-joint pain. Methods In this blinded, prospective trial, patients with positive diagnostic MBN blocks (>75% relief) were randomized to MBN C-RFA or T-RFA. The primary outcome was the proportion of responders' (≥50% Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) reduction) at 6 months. Secondary outcomes included NRS, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and Patient Global Impression of Change. Results Forty-three participants were randomized to MBN C-RFA (n=21) or T-RFA (n=22). There were no significant differences in demographic variables (p>0.05). A ≥50% NRS reduction was observed in 52% (95% CI 31% to 74%) and 44% (95% CI 22% to 69%) of participants in the C-RFA and T-RFA groups, respectively (p=0.75). A ≥15-point or ≥30% reduction in ODI score was observed in 62% (95% CI 38% to 82%) and 44% (95% CI 22% to 69%) of participants in the C-RFA and T-RFA groups, respectively (p=0.21). Conclusions When using a single diagnostic block paradigm with a threshold of >75% pain reduction, both treatment with both C-RFA and T-RFA resulted in a success rate of approximately 50% when defined by both improvement in pain and physical function at 6-month follow-up. While the success rate was higher in the C-RFA group, this difference was not statistically significant. Trial registration number NCT02478437.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine